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Portland Public Schools STOP Supporting The Boy Scouts of America

October 14, 2003
Board of Trustees &
Superintendent Jim Scherzinger

Portland Public Schools
501 N. Dixon Street
Portland, OR 97227

Dear School Board and Superintendent Jim Scherzinger:

I am writing on behalf of Scouting for All and its thousands of members nationwide to strongly encourage the Portland Public Schools to make a statement about the kind of education our children are to receive in
your schools. Children cannot learn, teachers cannot teach and staff cannot do their jobs when they feel unsafe, when they or their families are unwelcome and when their beliefs are not respected.

Allowing the Boy Scouts of America (hereafter, BSA) use of school facilities and ability to recruit either in-person or through school mail infers agreement with the policies of the organization and its leadership. Here lies an opportunity for Portland Public Schools (hereafter, PPS) to distance themselves from the moral failings of the BSA leadership.

The PPS include students and staff of all sexual orientations and religious beliefs among other distinguishing factors. It would be wrong to allow your gay and non-theist teachers and staff to believe their contributions are not valued. It is equally wrong to convey such a message to your students.

The consequences of such messages can be deadly. Gay youth are two to three times more likely to commit
suicide than other youths, and 30 percent of all completed youth suicides are related to the issue of sexual identity . According to one study, "A general sense of personal worth, coupled with a positive view of their sexual orientation, appears to be critical for the youths' mental health."

With the epidemic of anti-gay bullying and harassment in our schools, why would the PPS continue to infer
its acceptance of a program that says such youth are not morally straight or clean. In one nationwide survey, over 83 percent of GLBT students reported verbal harassment at school. The consequences of physical and verbal abuse directed at GLBT students include truancy, dropping out of school, poor grades, and having to repeat a grade. In one study, 28 percent of gay and bisexual youth dropped out of school due to peer harassment.

Schools are required to serve all youth and their families. Why then, would the PPS allow the BSA to recruit in the schools. Families today come in many different varieties. Such diversity is good for our children because it promotes tolerance and teaches respect for differences. The effects of the BSA presence at the Jim Bridger Elementary School's Creative Science School are obvious in the grievance before you today.

In their formal complaint, parents Mitchell Zahn and Steven Wagenhoffer clearly discuss the impact that the BSA ongoing recruiting has had on their two sons. They also lay out clearly the ways in which the presence of the BSA violates the PPS policies and administrative directives. I strongly urge all member of the PPS's Board of Trustees to read the complaint and to weigh the facts heavily. In doing so, I am sure you will come to realize that the BSA has no place in our schools or public institutions.

There can be no doubt; the BSA is a private and discriminatory organization. The program itself may talk of tolerance and respect for diversity but the leadership does otherwise. Thus, the BSA says, Do what I say, not as I do. Last May, the organization threatened to oust Philadelphia's Cradle of Liberty Council and replace its board because they had attempted to adopt a non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation. Later, that BSA Council kicked out Life Scout Greg Lattera simply because he was gay.

The BSA's exclusion of gay and non-theist youth members and adult leaders has serious consequences for real people. As Northwestern Regional Director for two and half years, I can attest to that. I have had to console Scouts as young as 13-years-old. These Scouts lived lives consistent with the Scout Oath and Law; many spent half their lives or more as members of the BSA. Their identity was often aligned with their affiliation to the organization and to lose that was devastating.

Unlike the BSA, the PPS is a public institution entrusted to serve all children and their families. Your duty is not only to teach the basics , "reading, writing and arithmetic, but also to prepare your young people for the workforce, to foster tolerance and instill respect for diversity. It is the 21st century; we must demonstrate to our children how to co-exist in a society full of people who are different from them. The PPS can't do that when they promote programs that undermine that goal.

I hope you will consider Scouting for All as a partner in this discussion and evaluation process. As the nation's largest organization working for inclusive scouting, we can offer resources to you as you move forward. In addition to data and articles, we can provide consultants who were former Scout Executives, Scoutmasters and are current and former Scouts. Together, I am confident we can craft a policy that is accountable to the children, staff and families you are obligated to serve.


Robert R. Raketty
Northwestern Regional Director
Scouting for All

206-686-2944 x.1

Cc: Steve Wagenhoffer
Bonnie Tinker
Joyce Liljeholm
Diane Linn
Maria Rojo de Steffey
Serena Cruz
Lisa Naito
Lonnie Roberts
Deborah Bogstad
Mayor Vera Katz
Jim Francesconi
Randy Leonard
Dan Saltzman
Erik Sten

Gibson, P. (1989). "Gay Male and Lesbian Youth Suicide." In M. Feinleib (Ed.), *Prevention and Intervention in Youth Suicide* (Report to the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide, Vol. 3, pp. 110-42). Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services.

Hershberger, Scott L., and Anthony R. D'Augelli. "The Impact of Victimization on the Mental Health and
Suicidality of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youths." *Developmental Psychology* 31 (1995): 65-74.

Kosciw JG, Cullen MK. The School-Related Experiences of Our Nation's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and
Transgender Youth: The GLSEN 2001 National School Climate Survey. New York: GLSEN, 2001.

Savin-Williams RC. Verbal and physical abuse as stressors in the lives of lesbian, gay male, and bisexual youths: associations with school problems, running away, substance abuse, prostitution, and suicide. J Consult Clin Psychol 1994; 62:261-69.

Robert R. Raketty
Northwestern Regional Director
Scouting for All

(206) 686-2944

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